A Celebration of Light and Life

Get an online sneak peak of the new California Academy of Sciences, which will open this week. Unlike typical natural history museums, which architect Renzo Piano dubbed “kingdoms of darkness,” the stunning new facility is suffused with light. The combined natural history museum, aquarium, indoor rainforest, planetarium, and world-class research and education facility is on track for LEED Platinum certification. Its 2.5-acre living roof, which mimics the San Francisco Bay area’s rolling topography, is designed in part as replacement habitat for the imperiled Bay Checkerspot butterfly. A transparent four-story dome in the Academy’s east wing houses the “Rainforests of the World” exhibit, complete with birds, butterflies, and frogs living amongst the jungle vegetation. As executive director Greg Farrington notes, the new Academy looks forward and embraces life rather than cataloging the dark halls of distant history. The museum seeks to explore, in his words, “how we got here, and how are we going to find a way to stay.”

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